Venture Capital is a business where you reach out to a hundred people to get one’s commitment. Then a hundred people reach out to you, and it is your turn to pick the right one while knowing that it will take ten proper shots to truly make it.
Still, our greatest challenge in Marathon is not fundraising, or selecting the right companies, or even helping them go as far as they can. What really troubles us is something entirely different.
We get to meet with a lot of talented people every day. They are working hard and learning fast. They are employed in large companies or start on their own. They make good use of the latest technologies or actually build them.
For all that, their choices often feel suboptimal. Their actions tend to be limited by the circumstances, not enabled by them. They do well but can do great. They have what it takes, yet they settle for less.
Here’s our struggle: To make their ambition go on par with their talent.
To provide an example, you may be successful working for some of the best tech companies out there. Then you get bored of corporate life and decide to do something by yourself. But you go for a local play, “to maximize your chances.” A couple of years later, you’re stuck with a lifestyle business, and move on.
Or you may be among the best in the industry, with your expertise becoming hot. Still, when making the step to act on your own, you prefer something “safer”, that can “get up and running fast”. A bit later, things stop being “intellectually challenging”, and you stop.
Or you may be an accomplished researcher or freelancer, fed up with your work not being put into actual use or reinventing the wheel for each client. While trying to break the vicious circle by starting your own company, you end up again going after grants or creating a software house rather than a product company, replicating the flaws of your previous context.
The cases are numerous, yet they share a common pattern: The perception that less novelty provides for a better risk profile, which in turn rationalizes avoiding innovation.
When it comes to technology, this is wrong more often than not. As markets mature, they either become dominated by big players or commoditized. There is no space for new entrants to grow if they don’t bring something genuinely better on the table.
And better typically starts from product. You need to build it first or be the first to get it right. As a result, building something new should not be your biggest fear; in fact, it is your best chance going forward.
There are more reasons this is the case. Most importantly, when it comes to technologists, there is nothing more exciting than taking your craft to new territories and giving shape to the future.
Your ambition to build the next gen is not something to avoid. It is what gets you out of bed every morning and what will drive people around you; it is also what our world needs and how value is being created.
Trying to make the most out of your talents is not risky or something to be blamed for. It gives meaning to why you spent your career building such skills; this is why you followed this pursuit in life in the first place.
In our community, our greatest asset is our peers’ time, and brilliant people not reaching their potential is our greatest loss. For the ones being successful in everything you decide to do, success is only limited by your ambition.
We need to do what it takes to make sure your ambition knows no boundaries.